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Global and Green: Beauty Trends from the WIE Symposium

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We all feel loyalty to certain brands. Certain companies turn out superior products or have ethics that compel us to buy their wares. But it's also easy to feel jaded in the face of big corporations and things like demographics and targeted marketing strategies. At the WIE Symposium earlier this month, I met two business women who impressed me with their stories and commitment to delivering products that recognize how important it is to see the big picture in selling and manufacturing.

I met Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, Global Brand President for Estee Lauder/Aramis and Tara Smith, founder of Tara Smith Hair Care. Both women work in the field of beauty. Gabai-Pinsky works with fragrance. She's leading the team that has developed pureDKNY. Earlier this month, they released the second pureDKNY scent based on notes of verbena grown and harvested in Togo. Smith's company is based in the UK and will launch in the States in 2012. Her line of hair care products is made from organic ingredients and features an affordable price point.

While it's easy to point to the sustainable, organic beauty products as a marketing trend, I'd like to think there's more to the story. Launching products of this caliber with careful attention to their impact and ethical manufacture is no easy feat. Considering the bottom line is important, but here's what I learned about their philosophy.

The pureDKNY fragrances are produced with sustainability in mind, and the fine attention that has gone into every stage of production is impressive. Veronique and her team worked with CARE to produce the pureDKNY Verbena scent. It starts with uncovering the crop they'll use as the hero of the fragrance. This is decided on and dictated by available crops. The company guaranteed the farmers growing the verbena a steady price for the crop. In working with CARE, microfinancing was set in place to allow the women doing the growing and harvesting a chance to plan and start their own small enterprise. The fragrance is then manufactured in a plant powered by wind. The bottle for the perfume is recyclable. The packaging is created with Certified Forest Paper and the cello wrap is biodegradable and made from cornstarch.

In her talk at the WIE Symposium, Gabai-Pinsky highlighted the process her company developed in creating this fragrance:

"...the core component is the wish to give back to this community and really help them so we associated ourselves with CARE who helped us with developing a system of microcredits and loans. And really helping these women to save a little bit of money so that they would not be in terrible situations. If they needed to send their kids to school they could, if they needed doctors they could have them. Those types of things are very important.

You know, I always say to my team this Chinese proverb which is "if you want to help somebody don't give him a fish, teach him how to fish." And that's really what this whole thing is about. Helping these women become confident, more secure and help them in building their own enterprise, if you will. I have to tell you this has been a labor of love because it's more difficult to do things that way, but it's one very rewarding project."

Tara Smith readily climbs up her soapbox to talk about the benefits of organic ingredients in her line of hair care products. Her company's tagline is "Tested on film stars not animals." While Smith is serious about natural hair care and the integrity of her company, she's also determined to keep it fun. She joined the WIE panel on The Business of Beauty.

Smith grew up in a family of hairdressers and knocked on doors until she found her way into the film business. She's done hair for celebrities such as Demi Moore, Neve Campbell and Rosario Dawson. In 2009 Smith's peers in the UK named her Celebrity Hairdresser of the Year. She brought that same energy and level of expertise to her line of hair care products and launched in the UK in 2008.

Smith shared with me her impulse for developing her line:

"In Europe, there are over 1,100 harsh chemicals that are banned and not allowed to go into products. In America, how many do you think are banned? Ten. How can we do this? What are we doing here? So I want to continue my activism and not be scaring people because my thing is that people need to look sexy and gorgeous and great, but you can do that and not have these chemicals in there and have them at an affordable price...The products are vegan approved with certified organic fragrances and no harsh chemicals. It's as simple as that.

For me, I support and work with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics because they go out lobbying. I want to have in a few years that...people don't even use the word green because it's just part of what we do."

Smith line isn't due out in the US until later next year. In the meantime, you can order her products through her website.

I was happy to hear that both Gabai-Pinsky and Smith are connecting with activist organizations like CARE and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics that have a global focus and a proven track record in partnering with corporations. Gabai-Pinsky summed things up nicely when she said, "We are stewarding a beautiful industry, a beautiful craft that is just here to give a little bit of pleasure to women and men. Right? I mean we're not saving lives but at the same time...we are trying to give back."